Audioquest Nighthawk (2019) Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    A quick followup on the AQ Nighthawk review: I've been measuring the relative response of headphones using an equalizer and several sets of test tones - not as an absolute against what sounds "flat" to me, but in comparison to numerous other headphones including some flagship models. I've found that in most cases, the lower tier headphones (especially portable types) have a lot of treble recess, whereas the so-called flagships are generally bright and peaky in the upper treble.

    I've mostly been using the Audioforge iOS app for estimating those responses, because it has a WYSIWYG interface with immediate results, and a simple frequency response shouldn't vary between devices that output the digital data directly to audiophile-quality amplifiers.

    However, whereas I measured the Nighthawk (using Audioforge and the Oppo HA-2 DAC/amp) as having a 4-5 db emphasis between ~150-400 hz and a 4-5 db recess through most of the treble, I measured only plus/minus 2 db using Foobar2000 on a WinXP computer with the Microstreamer and Dragonfly-1.2 DACs, to get the same balance as with the iOS devices and the Oppo DAC/amp.

    I wonder then how many users are not getting the better sound that's provided by computers playing through USB mini-DACs such as those I mentioned, or even better, using dedicated desktop headphone amps. Could it be that the high efficiency of the Nighthawk is encouraging a lot of use with portable devices? I don't know. I also don't know why the Apple music players would sound worse when used with DACs such as the Oppo, the v-moda Verza, or the Beyerdynamic A200p, but my results are pretty consistent.
     
  3. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    I just purchased the AudioQuest NightHawk Carbon at a closeout price of $299 USD in the U.S. The original price here was $699 USD, so the new closeout price is 3/7 of the original. The packaging was new with the NH Carbon, and so well packaged that it would survive severe moisture and humidity for 100 years or so. The sound is the same as the original NH, i.e. dull and cavernous due to the combination of lower-mids emphasis and mid-treble recess. Fortunately, when EQ'd properly the NH sounds marvelous.

    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Audioquest_Nighthawk.jpg
    (Note: EQ curve is the inverse of a freq. response curve)

    About a year ago I also purchased the NightOwl Carbon, hoping for a better sound, but it was even worse than the NH. I really have to wonder, given the massive promotion by AudioQuest for these headphones and their designer (Skylar-somebody), whether anyone with an appreciation for high fidelity reproduction actually listened to these designs and signed off on them. I have my doubts.
     
  4. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    New video of the NightHawk Carbon:

     
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